October 15: Happy Birthday Linda Lavin and Penny Marshall


Today our headliners are two actresses who were very familiar faces to late 1970s and early ’80s TV audiences, both of whom have other accomplishments as well.

Linda Lavin turns 79 today.  Her first significant TV role was in the recurring role Det. Janice Wentworth on Barney Miller.  After two seasons, she left the show to take the lead role in a sitcom about a widow with a young son who plans to move to California, but ends up in Phoenix after her car breaks down, and finds work as a waitress at a restaurant called Mel’s.  She played the role of Alice Hyatt in Alice for a run of nine seasons, winning two Golden Globes for Best TV Actress–Musical or Comedy.

Lavin made a number of TV movies and a few feature films, including The Muppets Take Manhattan, but aside from Alice she is most notable as a stage actress.  She made her Broadway debut in 1962 in the musical A Family Affair, and except for the years of Alice’s run, she never left for very long.  She is a six time Tony nominee, winning Best Actress in a Play in 1987 for Neil Simon’s Broadway Bound.

Penny Marshall celebrates her 73rd today.  She had been working in television for several years when, in 1975, she and Cindy Williams were cast as a pair of brewery workers for a guest appearance on Happy Days.  Their episode was so well received that the two characters, LaVerne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney, were given their own series.  LaVerne & Shirley was a major hit and ran for eight seasons on ABC, and Marshall received three Golden Globe nominations during the show’s run.

Marshall began directing while working on LaVerne & Shirley, and moved into directing feature films in the mid-1980s.  Her directing credits include Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Big, and A League of Their Own.  More recently she has directed episodes of Showtime’s The United States of Tara.

Tanya Roberts, who turns 61 today, first drew attention as Julie Rogers on the final season of Charlie’s Angels.  In the early 1980s she starred in kitschy films like The Beastmaster and Sheena: Queen of the Jungle, and in 1985 she was Roger Moore’s final Bond Girl in A View to a Kill.  More recently, she was Midge Pinciotti on That ’70s Show.

Bailee Madison, who turns 17, has been acting since she was seven.  She stars in the Hallmark Channel’s Good Witch and will star in next year’s Cowgirl’s Story.  Hip hop and R&B singer Keyshia Cole turns 35 today; she was a four-time Grammy nominee during the last decade whose biggest hit was “Let It Go.”  Vince Martella, who celebrates his 24th, provided the voice of Phineas Flynn on the Disney Channel’s Phineas and Ferd and co-starred on Everybody Hates Chris as Greg Wuliger.

Richard Carpenter, who is 70 today, joined with his sister Karen to form The Carpenters, one of the most successful recording duos of all time, with estimated sales of upwards of 100 million records.  Comedian and actor Larry Miller, who is 63, has appeared in films such as Pretty Woman, Undercover Blues, and 10 Things I Hate About You.  Baseball Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, who turns 71, won three American League Cy Young Awards and led the Baltimore Orioles to three World Series titles during his career.

Vanessa Marcil celebrates her 48th; she has received two Daytime Emmy nominations for General Hospital and starred on NBC’s Las Vegas as Sam Marquez.  Dominic West is 47 today.  He starred as Jimmy McNulty on HBO’s The Wire, won a BAFTA Award for the British miniseries Appropriate Adult, and received a Golden Globe nomination for his role on Showtime’s The Affair, soon starting its third season.  Indian-American director Mira Nair has credits that include the Oscar-nominated Salaam Bombay!, Mississippi Masala, Monsoon Wedding, and the 2004 adaptation of Vanity Fair.  She turns 59 today.  Also turning 59 is Michael Caton-Jones, who has directed films such as Doc Hollywood, Rob Roy and The Jackal.

Novelist Evan Hunter (1926-2005) was a man of many names.  Born Salvatore Lombino, he changed his legal name to Evan Hunter in 1952; however, the majority of his books were published under the name Ed McBain.  As McBain, he wrote the over 50 novels of the 87th Precinct series, one of the best in the police procedural subgenre.  As Evan Hunter, he wrote novels like The Blackboard Jungle, and also several screenplays, including Hitchcock’s The Birds.

Other writers born today: Mario Puzo (1920-1999) was most famous for his novels about the Mafia, most famously The Godfather, of course, but also others like The Sicilian and The Last Don.  He also wrote the original screenplay for Superman: The MovieP. G. Wodehouse (1881-1975) wrote several dozen novels and short stories about a hapless gentleman named Bertie Wooster and his hypercompetent valet Jeeves.  Publius Vergilius Maro, usually known as Virgil (70-19 BCE), was one of the greatest of all classical poets, author of the epic Aeneid.

Jane Darwell’s (1879-1967) long film career included winning Best Supporting Actress as Ma Joad in John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath (she was one of Ford’s “stock company” regulars), and coming out of semi-retirement to appear as the Bird Woman in Mary PoppinsMervyn LeRoy (1900-1987) worked as a director and producer for over 40 years.  He directed films such as the gangster classic Little Caesar and the Roman epic Quo Vadis, while as head of production at MGM he was responsible for films such as The Wizard of Oz.

Theater director Jose Quintero (1924-1999) was known for his interpretations of the works of Eugene O’Neill, winning a Tony for his direction of a 1973 revival of A Moon for the MisbegottenJean Peters (1926-2000) began her film career starring opposite Tyrone Power in Captain from Castile.  She starred in a pair of 1953 film noir classics, Niagara (opposite Marilyn Monroe) and Sam Fuller’s Pickup on South Street; not long after, she married Howard Hughes and largely retired from acting.  Star Trek fans will remember Mark Lenard (1924-1996) for his appearances as Ambassador Sarek, Spock’s father, on the original series episode “Journey to Babel” and in three of the feature films (and hopefully also as the Romulan commander in “Balance of Terror”).

If today is your birthday, congratulations on sharing your big day with these notable names.  Birthday wishes to everyone celebrating a big day today.  Come back tomorrow for more celebrity birthdays.


Posted on October 15, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I don’t know if you guys are aware of this, but whenever an article posts on Le Blog, it is a link is automatically tweeted and posted to the site’s FB page as well. For whatever reason, this birthday post got a higher-than-usual amount of retweets and likes. The birthday articles in general have seen an increase in social media activity (over the baseline of almost none). We have also had an increase in followers recently which I attribute to these updates and possibly also Daffy’s travelogues (lots of the new followers for the site have travel blogs of their own). Anyway, the dual sitcom mom birthdays proved to be popular.

    I watched a lot of Alice and Laverne & Shirley although dad hated L&S. Alice, I watched primarily in reruns after school. Charlie’s Angels was strictly forbidden in our house, so I never saw that growing up much less when Tonya Roberts joined the cast. But I did see her in The Beastmaster and Sheena. As Bond girls go, she ranks near the bottom of the list, but I was quite fond of her fantasy movies when they played on cable.

    Vince Martella was also patient zero in season four of The Walking Dead, if anyone wants to see what the voice of Phineas would look like as a zombie. Larry Miller has had quite a career as a character actor. Michael Caton-Jones also directed Bridget Fonda and the ex Mrs. Val Kilmer in Scandal.


  2. Nice to hear about the social media activity around the birthday posts.

    I never saw much of Alice, except maybe in reruns, but for at least a few years I can remember our household TV was always tuned in to ABC on Tuesday nights for Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley (and sometimes Three’s Company as well).

    Evan Hunter was one of the most prolific authors of the last century. I know him mostly under his Ed McBain pen name, for the 87th Precinct novels. I’ve read about 20 of them, I think, which means that when I finish another half dozen or so, I will be about halfway through the series. The nice think is that each novel is largely a standalone—although occasionally there are subplots that run through 3 or 4 books, and there is one recurring adversary, the Deaf Man, who turns up every so often—so you can pick up a novel from anywhere in the sequence and just start reading. As you may guess, I kind of like them. 🙂

    Jean Peters had an interesting, if short, career. Pickup on South Street is terrific, and although Niagara is kind of over the top at times, Peters is very good.

    Hopefully Star Trek fans will not be put out that I did not mention every single time Mark Lenard appeared as Sarek (for reasons of space, nothing else). He appeared in a couple of TNG episodes and did one appearance as a voice actor in the animated series.


    • I’m probably not as embarrassed as I should be, but I even watched the Alice spin-off, Flo. The entire show seemed to be based around her catch phrase, “Kiss my grits”.

      As a casual Star Trek fan, I wasn’t at all put out about Mark Lenard. He has an important place in Star Trek lore, but let’s keep things in perspective. This is hardly the place for a comprehensive listing of Sarek appearances. There are entire websites devoted to that kind of thing.


  3. I have a friend who’s an actress who worked with Linda Lavin off broadway, and she said Linda Lavin was just the fucking worst, a total bitch and an absolute nightmare to work with- and that’s coming from someone who worked with Kim Basinger. I’ve never met the lady so I couldn’t swear it’s gospel, but Sophie’s worked with a lot of people- Robert Sean Leonard, Jerry Orbach-Natalie Portman, Edward Albee- and I’ve never really heard her say anything bad about anyone. Except Linda Lavin.


  4. Penny Marshall’s an interesting character. She was, at least for a while, a much hotter and more interesting director than her brother, with the success of “Big” and “A League of Their Own”, but she didn’t really sustain it. She’s done some TV over the past few years.


  5. Who’s covering the same ground that Penny Marshall used to cover? Back in the day, Penny Marshall made a string of movies — “Big”. “Awakenings” and “A League of Their Own”. among others — which generally aimed at a wide audience. They had something for both kids and adults, and they walked the line between drama and comedy. She may not be doing that any more, but which directors, if any, are doing the same thing in this day and age?


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